Getting a Big Break

Students gain more than they give on Alternative Breaks trips

To the “Where the Boys Are” generation, the words Anheuser Busch might first come to mind when associating spring break with the letters A and B. But since 2001, Alternative Breaks (or AB) has offered Xavier students a get-away that gives back and leaves a greater impression than just a nice tan.

A and B are also the initials of Amanda Burns, current chair of Xavier’s Alternative Breaks executive board. One of the more memorable benefits of her four-year association with AB has been the opportunity to make new acquaintances—even furry ones. In one case—bison. “There were bison in our camp site that chased us.”

The camp—Catalina Island, about 50 miles offshore from Los Angeles—is perhaps better known as an upscale vacation destination from the golden age of Hollywood. But it’s also the home of a 42,000-acre wilderness preserve. The official mission of this specific alternative break: conservation of eco-systems, trail maintenance and beach clean-up. In other words, a lot of hard work.

“There are bison on the island because they were brought in for a movie set and just left there,” she says. It happened in 1924, as these were props from a silent film, now left as a reminder of the impact careless actions can have on an ecosystem. “Bison can’t swim, they just roam the island.”  She does remember the adventure had a happy ending; “It just walked away”.

What shows no sign of going away any time soon is Xavier’s Alternative Breaks program. Now in its 14th year, AB has grown from about 30 students setting out on three impromptu-organized trips to 21 trips involving over 260 students.AltBreaks2

While the mission is lofty—“to empower and challenge all involved understanding the relationship with the global community through direct service, education, and reflection, while encouraging personal growth, social awareness, and active citizenship”—the reality is quite simple: Get out of your comfort zone and appreciate the experience.

Those experiences over the years are as varied as humanity and often not as pleasant as communing with nature—gang prevention, immigration and poverty—in locations from Cincinnati to the Ukraine. AB has also been a robustly independent organization, entirely student-run. In 2007, staff and faculty members joined the trips to comply with Xavier’s risk management and insurance. These non-students are officially considered “trip participants,” while the team is led by two trained students.

“We take a lot of pride in being entirely student-run,” Burns says. Bringing professors along for spring break seemed a bit counter-intuitive in the beginning, but it has slowly evolved into an additional resource and may even lead to the addition of an academic component some day.

“We’re still trying to figure out how that dynamic would fit into coursework and academic credit,” Burns says.

So while the challenges an alternative breaker faces can be daunting, they are probably statistically safer than the traditional Daytona Beach bacchanal.

“We have had some unfortunate encounters between hammers and thumbs while working,” she recalls.

But bumps, bruises and bison aside, this alternative version of spring break may not be all about a week at the beach, but students do return changed in ways they least expected. It’s also not all about “doing good” but learning to appreciate that life is lived at many levels. And what surprised Burns the most in her four years of Alternative Breaks was helping herself along the way.

“It’s not necessarily that I’m going to go help you, but I needed to change the way I was,” she says.

Visit Xavier’s Alternative Breaks page to view more photos and learn more about the program.

For the Greater Good: Honoring 10 Years of Philosophy, Politics and the Public

The Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program is for students who exhibit passion as well as academic achievement. Handpicked for the program, they have a purpose that sometimes they don’t even know about. But the faculty know how to spot leaders, and they’re the ones for whom the program brings out the best.

“Our kids’ SAT scores are good, but I’m more interested in the kid who is going to benefit from the program,” says Paul Colella, the philosophy professor who was tapped by Michael Graham, SJ, to start the program 10 years ago. “I have sympathy for the kids who want to be here and who want this education—kids with passion. There are so many. I’m so proud of all of them.”

Since its founding 10 years ago, the honors program is accomplishing its goal of helping students rediscover the heart of politics by preparing them “to do policy and operate where private and public interests intersect,” Colella says.

Now the faculty is focused on building the curriculum for the new master’s program—Private Interests and Public Good. Like the undergraduate program, it’s anchored in the philosophical tradition of the Jesuits.

The curriculum for undergraduates is not for the faint of heart: sequenced courses in ethical theory, history, economics, philosophy and political science with a focus on the political process, democratic institutions and the public sphere. A senior-year capstone course and research thesis wrap up the undergraduate program.

But it’s also loaded with extras: study abroad in Paris and Brussels, a DC trip to study current legislative issues with stakeholders on Capitol Hill, well-placed internships and a network of politically connected professionals and alumni.

As the program launches into its second decade, Xavier magazine connected with some of the program’s alumni to learn how the PPP experience changed their lives and how they, in turn, are changing the lives of others. Here are their stories.

 

[divider] Michael Kulas ’09 [/divider]

Graduate student, Georgetown University / Deloitte Consulting, Washington, DCMike Kulas-XAVIER CK0U1649 copy

Mike Kulas graduated from Xavier in May 2009 with degrees in history and Philosophy, Politics and the Public. Since then, he’s served his country’s government in two sometimes opposing fields: tracking the Taliban and drug shipments as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan, and studying potential unfunded mandates as a Congressional Budget Office intern.

He credits his PPP professors for giving him a framework for critical thinking that taught him how to evaluate public policy from a more human perspective and to approach issues from many viewpoints.

Rather than looking merely at black-and-white cost-benefit analyses, he prefers an analytical approach: “Let’s really analyze this. Who’s benefitting, how are they benefitting, what are the costs, and why?”

As an Army ROTC graduate, Kulas was assigned to work with Army Rangers and the Afghan army in Helmand Province from September 2012 to February 2013. In a region that produces abundant opium and was partly ruled by a Taliban “shadow government,” he helped the Rangers locate persons of interest so investigators could determine their ties to enemy forces.

Before the soldiers started their searches, Kulas and others would tell them how many IEDs (improvised explosive devices) had detonated in recent years on roads they might travel or the likely presence of snipers.

“I feel confident saying that my time there had an impact on disrupting counterproductive activity,” he says. “I think we disrupted some potential insurgent activity, some potential Taliban activity, and some potential movement of illegal contraband.”

In the fall of 2013, he began a Master’s in Public Policy at Georgetown University and interned in the Congressional Budget Office, where he evaluated whether proposed bills would place unfunded mandates on state or local governments. He says his PPP experience already has opened doors: Last summer, he interned with Deloitte Consulting, which offered him full-time employment after he graduates in May. “When you put that on a resumé, it makes you stand out.”

 

[divider] Erin McDermott ’07 [/divider]

Consultant, Deloitte Consulting, Washington, DC

Erin McDermott_sam copy

Some students come to Xavier knowing they want to study politics and philosophy in a way that emphasizes public policy. Erin McDermott’s path was more circuitous.

As a member of the University Scholars program her freshman year, she shared housing with PPP students in the honors block, though she had no clear idea what she wanted to study. Program founder Paul Colella saw her potential and worked to convince her to join PPP. He and the program’s “addictive” appeal finally swayed her.

It was a good move. Her sophomore year coincided with President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, and an internship with the Hamilton County Republican Party led to work supporting presidential appearances. She also met elected officials such as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The next summer she interned with Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Xavier alumnus who had just become House Majority Leader.

“I experienced a lot of policy and people and politics at its highest level. It was just a great summer,” McDermott says.

Before she graduated, McDermott landed a job in the Department of Education, where she worked on the No Child Left Behind Act and education policy. After Bush left office, she pursued a joint MBA/MA in government from Johns Hopkins University.

Now a management consultant for Deloitte, McDermott works with federal agencies and non-profits. She credits her PPP professors with teaching her how to think critically, write clearly, work well with others and network.

“The PPP program set me up to come work in Washington,” she says. “I can understand a lot of different perspectives and I don’t take things personally. It’s such a critical thing to be able to set up challenging meetings and integrate different ideas.”

Eight years, two graduate degrees and a few jobs later, McDermott still leans on PPP faculty for advice, friendship and perspective.

“I view them as friends, mentors and teachers,” she says. “This is an incredibly unique program, and I didn’t realize how valuable it was until I left.”

 

[divider] Chuma Nnawulezi ’15 [/divider]

Senior, Philosophy, Politics and the PublicXUXU0112

Chuma Nnawulezi’s experiences as a black American descended from the Igbo people of Nigeria made him curious about how to resolve conflict in his own and the wider world. Teased in high school for being African, by African Americans students, he sought out a Jesuit college with the kind of program that would meet his desire to understand why. At a Xavier scholarship event with philosophy Professor Paul Colella, he learned about the PPP program and knew right away it was for him.

“He put on the first slide and said, ‘PPP is for students who are engaged in society and want to know how foundations were created and how to affect it,’” Nnawulezi says. “I said, that’s me…This program is the best thing about this University because it’s so relevant to how we shape our society. There’s nothing else like it in the US.”

Nnawulezi meets with prospective students who are interested in coming to Xavier. He’s made it his personal goal to increase the number of black, Hispanic and other minority students who not only enroll at Xavier, but also apply to PPP. “I talk to students about pursuing this program if they’re interested in the world and society and changing it.”

While still a junior, however, Nnawulezi became anxious to learn more about the part of the world known as the Global South–Africa, Asia and Latin America. But because Xavier’s academic study abroad programs don’t include those regions, he did his own search and found a semester-long study program in three major cities—Ahmedabad in India, Dakar in Senegal, and Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Only problem was, he had to pay for it himself. But with guidance from PPP co-founder Gene Beaupre, Nnawulezi put together a letter-writing campaign seeking financial support from educational organizations, the Jesuit priest of his church back home in Omaha, and finally from the Kroger Co., whose donation put him over the top of his $25,000 goal.

The trip during spring semester of his junior year was a success. He completed four courses and learned how different—and how similar—people can be in different cultures. His favorite location was Senegal—not too metro but not too backwards, either, a good mix of bucket showers and gelato.

“I’m interested in the clashing of cultures in cities and how we can do better,” he says. “I feel obligated toward black Americans to use my talents to improve their situation. I also feel some obligation toward Africa and the Global South. I needed to have experience to see if these ideas translate internationally.”

His experience overseas just added to the mix of experiences gleaned from PPP. As a sophomore, he worked supporting the campaigns of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and President Obama in 2012, and he was a research assistant for Professor John Fairfield, analyzing the history of the historically black Cincinnati neighborhood of Avondale.

Thinking beyond his graduation in May, he expects these experiences will help him get into grad school, where he wants to study public administration and urban development. He’s set his sights high, applying to Princeton, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.

In April, Nnawulezi learned he was selected to receive a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, which will support a master’s degree and work experience in international affairs and prepare him for a career as a US Foreign Service Officer representing the United States overseas.

“My career goal is to work for an international NGO and serve historically marginalized populations in the Global South,” Nnawulezi says. “My ideal organization would be UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). They use historical precedent and the need for innovation to increase the quality of life for cities in this part of the world.”

 

[divider] Rahiel Michael ’13 [/divider]

Constituent Services, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, CincinnatiOpener

Before starting her first year at Xavier, Rahiel Michael attended a scholarship event to learn more about her options. What she learned changed her life. Already interested in politics, she was drawn to Professor Paul Colella’s presentation about the PPP program, but she doubted she could get in.

Her mother encouraged her to talk to him, but Michael was too shy. “I hesitated the entire night, and finally I went over and let him know I was interested, and I applied and got in,” Michael says. “Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I sucked it up and that’s the end of that story.”

Tapping into her newly discovered courage, Michael thrived in the PPP program’s close, family feel and group support. For her sophomore internship, she joined the office of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown handling phone calls and special projects. Her work and self-confidence paid off. Just before she graduated in 2013, Brown’s office offered her a full-time job.

“I graduated on Saturday, and I was in the office on Monday,” she says.

Her new job: Constituent services, working with Ohio veterans and active duty military who have issues with the VA or the federal government.

Between her work in the senator’s office and her PPP experience, Michael developed a talent for sizing up a room and knowing just what to say and how. She’s even planning on graduate school.

“This program broke me out of my shell and made me more confident and smart. It taught me how to write properly and how to advocate for myself,” she says. “I learned so much academically as well as personally.”

 

[divider] Kevin Hoggatt ’08 [/divider]

Political director, Rob Portman for Senate campaign, Columbus, OhioHoggatt Portman Romney Photo

For 2008 graduate Kevin Hoggatt, Philosophy, Politics and the Public wasn’t just a major. It was a calling. “It’s the reason I came to Xavier. I was really attracted to the idea of combining philosophy with the practical aspects of enacting public policy. For example, what role do ‘the people’ have in developing public policy?”

For Hoggatt, the program not only expanded his world view but also opened doors. “My junior year, I worked for Rob Portman’s office at the White House when he was the head of the Office of Management and Budget.”

That internship turned into a full-time job and, it appears, a career. Now in his eighth year on staff, Hoggatt’s been named political director of the Portman for Senate re-election campaign.

Success in the PPP program demands focus, dedication and desire—three qualities that aptly describe Hoggatt’s personal philosophy. “Only 15 or 16 students are admitted every year to keep the class sizes small,” he says. “The idea is you’re learning with the same group of students pretty much all the way through your classes.”

And for those who seek the best in themselves and others, the doors of opportunity just continue to open wider and wider. “The PPP program teaches you how to learn and question more in a search for the truth—what is good and what is right. That questioning fits in with the Jesuit ideal and is good for creating an informed citizenry.”

While politics and philosophy can make for a volatile mix, often engendering more cynicism than success, Hoggatt remains true to the original ideals that first brought him to Xavier.

“People like to complain about the state of our government or community, but it’s another thing to work to try to change our world,” he says. “I think most people engaged in public service want to improve their communities and make the world we live and work in a better place.”

 

[divider] Christopher Hale ’11 [/divider]

Executive director, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Washington, DCChris Hale - cnn.atlanta.new.studio flat

Christopher Hale identifies himself as Roman Catholic, not Democrat or Republican. That’s why he can do an internship for President Obama the year after graduating, and then become the voice of Catholicism for young Catholics. His political views skew liberal—and conservative.

“I applied for (the internship) because I wanted to be in DC, and I’m intensely interested in legislative politics, and I got the chance to do that at the White House. It’s the heart of where things happen,” Hale says. “They knew I was interested in the role of faith and public life.”

After the White House internship, Hale stayed on to work for the Obama re-election campaign with a focus on rallying Catholic voters. That experience led to his hiring by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a public policy forum based on Catholic principles. As executive director, he manages daily blog posts and writes regular columns for the Alliance and other online journals including Time magazine, CNN.com and America: The National Catholic Review. He also co-founded Millenial, an online journal for young writers with a Catholic point of view.

He’s become, in short, a voice for Catholic youth today.

“I saw it as an opportunity that despite my young age, I was able to commit to because I had a good sense of the Catholic community and their issues and how to move forward in the current political climate,” he says. “The Catholic perspective in DC is based on moral authority, not the fiscal resources it can offer politicians.”

Topics they address range from caring for the poor to right-to-life issues to health care and immigration.

Hale knows he might not have had this opportunity if not for the PPP program. It taught him how to think but also gave him an avenue for melding his faith with his career goals.

“I was attracted to PPP because it really calls for growth of public intellectualism, to go out in life dedicated to a life of social consequences,” he says. “As a Catholic, PPP was the best way for me to integrate my faith in public life. ”

The most life-changing moments for him were a trip to Rome in the summer of 2010, where they saw Pope Benedict, and a trip to Washington to work on a legislative issue with Ohio members of Congress. “That trip gave me a sense of where I’m called to be and that I want to participate in political life in the US,” he says.

“My hope is to use this great Catholic faith tradition to encourage politicians to focus first on people to make their lives better and less on the horse race issues,” he says. “It’s re-centering politics on what matters.”

READ about another PPP alumna, Betsy Hoover, and WATCH a video about the program.

Hola Cuba

For decades it has been the forbidden island.

Just 90 miles off the shores of Key West, Florida, the outcast and ostracized country has been so close and yet so far away.

For the first half of the 20th century, Havana was an American playground. It was Las Vegas before Las Vegas. Entertainers packed the clubs. Gambling and drinking filled the hot, steamy Cuba nights. Rum flowed and music played.

When the Cold War got hot and the efforts to control the country sank into the Bay of Pigs, everything changed. Fidel Castro took over, Cuba went communist and relations—both diplomatic and economic—ground to a halt. A wall was built—not the physical kind that separated East and West Berlin, but an economic one. The U.S. placed an embargo on both visiting the country and doing business there. Nothing in, nothing out, no exceptions. As the second half of the 20th century grew near a close, the world began to change. The Soviet Union, which had long supported the Cuban economy, collapsed and suddenly Cuba was both literally and figuratively an island alone. Castro, who long thumbed his nose at the American authority, grew old and weary. And then…

In 2000, Congress passed reforms to that embargo allowing U.S.-based companies to export approved products to Cuba—albeit under strict guidelines. According to one estimate, U.S. exports to Cuba peaked in 2008 at $711 million, making the U.S. Cuba’s 4th- or 5th-largest trading partner. But that could soon change. The transition the country makes after Castro’s death will be the deciding factor. Will another general take his place and maintain the status quo? Or will the country move to a more democratic and free-market economy?

Staying on the leading edge of business trends is a key component to business—and business education. The most dominant trend in business over the past decade or more has been the emerging global economy, which is why the Williams College of Business has, for years, mandated international business trips for its MBA students. The best way to understand the differences and nuances of international business is to experience them firsthand. So when the opportunity came up to take students to what could potentially be the next emerging international market—Cuba—the College jumped at the chance.

For nine days in March, students toured the island country, immersing themselves in the complex, social, political and economic reality that is Cuba today. They explored the country’s changing and emerging business models and contrasting economic systems and views. They became familiar with the nation’s economic and business development, tourism, legal and banking systems, methods and sources of foreign investments, trading partners and relationship with the U.S. government.

In the end, they were put in a position to better understand what could very well be one of this country’s biggest new business markets, which gives them an advantage over graduates of other business schools. Now with news of the United States normalizing relations with Cuba, more such opportunities will be available for future generations of students.

 

Main Musketeer

Greg Christopher was hired as athletic director in March. We asked him about himself and his vision for Xavier sports as the University enters the Big East.

Q: What attracted you to Xavier?
A: Really three things. First and foremost is the institution. It’s a first-rate institution with a values proposition that, quite frankly, our society needs. Secondly, it’s the athletic part. There’s a tradition and a history of winning here, and there are the resources to be successful. Selfishly, as an athletic director, the thing you want the most are those resources. They give you the ability to be successful on a national level. And then, from a family standpoint, my wife and I spent at least six years in this corner of the state, so we knew what a great area Cincinnati is.

Q: How familiar are you with the Jesuit ideals? That a nun has the authority to tell a coach his star player isn’t going to play.
A: That’s different from what you might see at a public school. I think a lot of the private schools have that type of a values proposition. But I don’t care if it’s a nun, the president, the coach, the athletic director—the short version is there’s accountability. If you’re a student-athlete and you come to a Xavier, you adhere to that. That’s part of why you are here, that accountability. Is that going to turn off a few recruits? Perhaps. But if it does then I don’t think they would be great fits for Xavier anyway.

Q: You created the Falcon Leadership Academy for student-athletes at Bowling Green. What is that and can we expect something similar here?
A: I would never be presumptuous enough to take something we did at Bowling Green and bring it here to Xavier, but after I accepted the position Fr. Graham laid out three or four priorities for me and that was one of them—some form of character development/leadership that is specific to student-athletes. Another prong about why I was attracted to Xavier is that in terms of a leadership academy, that already exists here. I think what will probably happen is we’ll take what the coaches are already doing, what’s already being done on campus and incorporate a few new things and develop it into something that is specific to student-athletes.

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Watch a video of the interview

Q: What were the other priorities you were given?

A: The first was anything and everything related to revenue. As we move to the Big East and all that come with that, the message is clear: Athletics needs to generate more revenue on its own. There will certainly be an institutional commitment, and that’s not wavering, but what are the opportunities we have to generate more revenue? The second was all things Big East. It’s a big moment for the institution, a great opportunity, but it also comes with some challenges. We just need to make sure we are big enough for the stage, that we are an equal partner and not just a tag-along. The character development of our student-athletes. And the fourth was to create a strategic plan. You have a lot of things coming together to make that important right now: The University just finished its strategic planning process. You’ve got a brand new athletic director walking in the door on the heels of an AD who was here 15 years. Take that plus the Big East layer and it’s time to develop a new road map for athletics.

Q: You helped raise $111 million at Purdue and $60 million at Bowling Green. So we can expect you to do a lot of fundraising as well?
A:
It clearly needs to be a priority, but that is true for any Division I institution. And it’s not as simplistic to say going out to people and asking for money. It’s looking at really how are we integrated and cohesive across the board and how we drive revenue or look at revenue within athletics. And even beyond that within the institution. The fact is there’s a business side to what we do. You can’t gouge your customers. That’s not the message I want delivered in any way shape or form. But are we as efficient as we can be in operating from a revenue standpoint?

Q: You mentioned the Big East as a priority. Can we compete?
A:
I’ve been to two Big East meetings so far, and you sit around that table and a couple of things jump out at you. First and foremost, we’re in the right group. Conferences ought to be about ideology and being with like-minded institutions. And I think that’s why the new Big East makes so much sense on a lot of levels. Second, it’s terrific for Xavier in that joining the conference is strategic not just from an athletics standpoint but from an institutional standpoint. Ohio and the Midwest are not tracking the right way from a demographic standpoint to try to grow an institution. So you have to look a little more national. And the Big East is in the right markets for Xavier going forward. And then the third part that readily comes out as we talk is that we are built the right way. Every single school in the Big East, the bandwidth of budgets is really tight. We’re not the top budget in the Big East, but we’re also not the bottom. We probably have some gaps that we’re going to need to address. We’ve also got some places that we’re absolutely built to compete. Are we going to walk in the dominate? No. The bandwidth is too tight. But I think we can be very successful out of the gate.

[button link=”#” size=”small” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
[The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.]

Q: How will joining the Big East help grow the institution as whole?
A:
It’s not easily measurable, but you don’t make this kind of a move if you haven’t thought it through from an institutional standpoint. Absolutely it’s about getting Xavier visibility in some key markets that are important to the University. We have to think more nationally from an admission and enrollment standpoint as we look out over the next 10, 20, 30 years. Also it reframes the institution a little bit in that when you look at our peer groups, it’s not just a more external group from the athletic standpoint, but also the academic standpoint. For the institution, to maximize this, let’s make sure we’re visible from an academic standpoint, not necessarily the students in the classroom and their engagement from a research standpoint, and also making sure they are using the platform to get the Xavier message out.

Q: Will Xavier add any new sports?
A:
Each school has its own sports portfolio and that will be something we do take a look at through the strategic plan. Do we have the right sport mix, especially under the ender equity standpoint? The good thing is all of our sports are under the Big East umbrella—we won’t have any orphan sports off in different conferences. I think it’s a good portfolio of sports that we do have, and now it’s our job to make sure they keep getting better.

Game Changer

The official announcement of the worst-kept secret in college sports happened March 20: Xavier is leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference and joining a newly restructured Big East. Talk of the change was a shadow story throughout much of the past year, and making the announcement official was not only a relief, it formally moved Xavier to the place it has been aiming at for the last 30 years—the national stage.

Xavier’s elevation into one of the most dominant basketball conferences in the country was met with a packed Cintas Center conference room and a great deal of pride among Musketeer alumni and fans. But what was lost in the announcement was the fact that the move into national prominence wasn’t an overnight event. Rather, it was the culmination of a well-planned, concerted effort that was decades in the making, starting back even before Xavier entered the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1979.Team 5 LIP 8-20-12 DC

There were little steps along the way—ditching the “Xavier of Ohio” tag, ignoring the “mid-major” label, teaching people that it’s not pronounced “Ex-avier.” There were big steps as well—moving from Schmidt Fieldhouse to the Cincinnati Gardens, joining the A-10, building the Cintas Center. But like walking up a flight of stairs, each step elevated the University until it has now reached what could arguably be considered the top flight.

The question remains, though: Now what? The new Big East is in some ways an experiment in athletic dynamics. It’s now the nation’s only non-football, basketball-centered power conference. It’s also made up of nine Catholic schools and one private school. What does all that mean in terms of national interest? In terms of television revenue? In terms of quality?

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[button link=”#” size=”medium” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
• New athletic director Greg Christopher shares his views on Xavier joining the Big East.
The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.
A video of Xavier sports highlights from the past three decades.

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20121011_BASE_BlueWhite_Richard_5In some ways, the creation of the conference is a relief to the plethora of conference realignments driven by television exposure and revenue that have been taking place over the last five or six years. Its creation wasn’t spawned from a drive for more money and power, but from a protest against that.

The old Big East was crumbling from the inside out as its football and non-football schools (informally known as the Catholic Seven) engaged in an internal tug-of-war. By rejecting the idea that football comes first and breaking away on their own, the Catholic Seven not only found relief from the stress of financial inequality, but they found freedom as well—freedom to play for reasons other than commercialism.

“In a mercenary college athletics world drunk on dollars and disdainful of both common sense and the common fan,” Yahoo sports columnist Pat Forde wrote, “it’s nice to see one group declare that something else matters more. Identity matters more. Equality matters more.“083112_OleMiss_001

Arguably, so might mission. With all of the schools except Butler being Catholic, it offers the opportunity for subtle preaching of values and service through its on- and off-the-field actions. Before the first game has even been played, the new league can already boast about one record that most other conferences can’t—academic success. All of the new Big East schools have an NCAA graduation rate of at least 90 percent, with the exception of Butler, which is at 83 percent. Xavier’s 97 percent graduation rate is the best.

David Gibson, a writer with the Religious News Service, even posed the question, “Can a Catholic hoops conference save college sports?” By “the conference’s breaking away in protest,” he wrote, “the schools are offering a corrective example to the way big-money programs, especially in football, are driving (some would say warping) amateur sports.”

It’s a lot of added pressure—being able to compete at the highest level while not engaging in the kind of athletic and moral malfeasance that has dominated sports headlines of late. Still, it could set a benchmark other conferences may be challenged to meet.

Whatever ripple effects the league might have externally, joining the conference will certainly have a ripple effect internally for Xavier. Its effects will be felt in the admissions office and classrooms and bookstore as new audiences of potential students, fans and donors become exposed to Xavier and all it has to offer. What will that mean? Time will tell.

Time begins this fall.

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Poetic Justice

Tyrone Williams has lived in Cincinnati for nearly 30 years. It’s his home.But during his three decades here, at least one piece of the city’s storied history eluded him—the story of the Black Brigade, Cincinnati’s free black men who were rounded up during the Civil War and forced into slave labor to protect the city from advancing Confederate troops.

Although a well-published poet, Williams had never created any type of public art. But when the call went out for someone to write a poem about the Black Brigade for a monument that was being created along Cincinnati’s riverfront, Williams decided to step outside of his usual comfort zone. It was, he thought, a perfect fit for him.

Others thought so as well. He was selected to write a 10-verse poem that was etched in stone as a small part of a larger piece of public art honoring the brigade. While notable on its own, what he loved most about the project was, as a poet, he got to work with three other artists in the monument’s creation.

“It takes your ego out of the process,” he says. “You have to work with someone else’s idea and you have to sometimes give up some things. It becomes part of something larger.”

His research helped him imagine the feelings of the 400 men who, in September 1862, were taken from their homes, locked in mule cages overnight and forced across the Ohio River to build fortifications against the Confederates. He imagined the fears of their wives and children, not knowing if their men would come back from Kentucky, where they were at risk of being captured and returned to slavery.

He thought about the joy the men felt when they were rescued by an abolitionist judge-turned-colonel, returned to the city and offered the chance to willingly volunteer. And he imagined the pride they felt when 718 of them showed up the next morning to help defend their city—and their elation when the Confederate troops retreated.

The monument is a series of panels on a wall that consists of statues, bronze plaques and words etched in marble and stone. Williams’ 10 verses fill the spaces between the panels. The wall is embedded into the earth, resembling the fortifications the men built with their hands along eight miles of Kentucky landscape near Fort Mitchell. Shaped like a crescent, it points toward the Ohio River and the Kentucky shore.

The names of all 718 men in the three regiments are engraved along the bottom of the wall. Their flag is engraved beneath a statue of a worried woman and child. Another statue, depicting Judge William Dickson receiving a sword from a brigade member, anchors the end, near the words of Williams’ final poem, which is etched permanently into the stone—and into Cincinnati’s memory.

Mirror Image

On his first day as a gear-cutter at the BorgWarner plant, Kelly Phelps strides up to the cavernous factory wearing Carhartt coveralls, thick leather steel-toed boots and safety helmet pulled close.

It’s 11:00 p.m. on a summer night in June. After four years of college at Ball State University, he’s returned to the Indiana city of New Castle where he grew up. With nowhere in this lower-income industrial community to put his newly earned art degree to use, he’s decided to take a job at the factory, a rusted relic of the dying automobile service industry that has sustained his family since his childhood. With his lunch pail in one hand and work gloves in the other, he looks over at his twin brother, Kyle, and steps inside. Then, everything changes.

The problem isn’t the enormous space, the physical assault from a blast of hot air or the ear-piercing sounds. It’s not even the constant whir and thrum of the machines making parts for the transmissions of Chrysler SUVs that most of the people in the factory will never be able to afford. The problem is the monotony. He’s not ready for eight hours of standing at the same station, doing the same task over and over and over.

Still, work pays the bills. So he pulls on his protective glasses and picks up a blank—a smooth, round steel disc—and locks it into a machine. Then he does it again. And again. The machine cuts the disc into a gear, its edges shaped into perfect prongs. With a gloved hand, he wipes away the steel burrs, sharp little bits of shaved metal. For every 100 discs that go into the machine, he pulls 30 to make sure the measurements are good.

He’s also not ready for the exhaustion of working third shift, coming in when his body is ready for sleep. Nor is he ready for the dangers of working in a big production factory where workers get around on trikes and drive front loaders to the railroad spur to move pallets of steel crates into the shop.

[lightbox link=”http://xavierweb.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/brothers9.jpg”][/lightbox]Most of all, he’s not ready for the anxiety of the men and women who have worked there all their lives and know no other way to make a living. By the summer of 1996, some of the factories in New Castle and Muncie have started downsizing. Some have actually closed and people are losing their jobs. Their fear is tangible. And educational.

A year at BorgWarner becomes a lesson in life for the twins. Their eyes are opened to the reality of the factory life that has sustained their city for more than 100 years. This is where their father went to work every day, as did their friends’ families and practically everyone in town. It’s why their dad pulled on his boots every morning and peeled them off at night, tucking them into the furnace closet. It’s why he was unemployed for at least a year after being laid off from the Chrysler plant in New Castle before finding work at BorgWarner.

It finally becomes clear to them—two young budding artists with four years of college behind them—that this is where they come from, this is who they are. This world of the factory defines them and their community. It also becomes clear to them that they need to tell this story through their art. And they need to do it together.
 

[divider]A life, divided[/divider]

Ten years ago, Kelly and Kyle walked into a tattoo business in Dayton, Ohio. When they were in college, the two had bands with interlocking hooks—an icon of being a twin—tattooed on their wrists. It was small but symbolic.

This time, they were looking for something new. Something different. Something that was not only an expression of their combined individualism, but also something that spoke of their passion for those who spent their lives cutting gears and stamping parts. They decided to have a large spider web woven in ink around their left elbows—a representation, says Kelly, of being caught up in the system, tangled up in the web. Each strand represents individual struggles to overcome personal obstacles.

Five years later they took that message even further, this time by having the words “Working Class” in old English lettering surrounded by a wreath tattooed on their forearms. It was, they say, a more direct way to show the folks back home in New Castle that they may have college degrees and were able to escape the grind, but they haven’t forgotten who they are or where they came from.

“It’s a brand for everyone to see that’s who I am,” Kelly says. “It’s like you wear your politics on your sleeve. This is undeniable. I make no bones about hiding or covering up who I am, from the tattoos down to the clothes we wear, all work clothes. It’s just ingrained in us.”

[lightbox link=”http://xavierweb.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/brothers7.jpg”]brothers7[/lightbox]All their lives, the Phelps brothers have done everything together. Their mother dressed them alike from birth. They attended the same college and graduate programs, choosing the same major and going to work at the same university. Their tattoos are no different.

“He’s the first person I talk to in the morning and the last at night,” Kelly says. “We work exclusively together. We’re the left and right hand, always and forever. We have the same tattoos, same music, same cars, same everything. It’s who we are. We are one person in two different bodies. It would be like tearing half my body away without him.”

Indeed, they admit their twinning behavior is extreme. They wear the same working-class T-shirts, heavy silver rings and neck chains, shave their heads close and have the same light goatees. They each drive a black Jeep Commander, and their houses are only blocks apart in the same neighborhood. The only obvious difference at first is Kyle’s face is slightly fuller than Kelly’s.

Xavier psychology professor Kathleen Hart, herself a twin, says the experience is unique for each set of twins. There is little scientific research about the phenomenon to back up common perceptions about twin behavior, but she says the Phelps brothers probably are more extreme than most twins in their identification with each other.

“It seems as though because of being identical, being a minority and being unique in their community, they cleaved onto each other and really formed a very, very tight bond,” Hart says. ““The fact they are twins and have all those shared experiences makes it easier to create a relationship that is that symbiotic, but it’s something they have created. Given the role that plays in their work and in their art, it sounds like it’s working for them.”

Now, as dual artists, they have a commodity to promote, both for a living and a cause. They started teaching together at the University of Dayton in a shared tenure track position, but in 2003, Kelly took a position at Xavier, so they could each have their own tenure track.

Kelly is popular on campus among students. His enthusiasm for the possibilities that an art degree offers encourages students to be creative in his Xavier studio. Checking on their work on a September afternoon, he comments on the life-sized heads, self-portraits they have created, that are propped at various angles on the workbenches, still soft and gray-toned in the unfired clay stage.

[lightbox link=”http://xavierweb.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/brothers6.jpg”]brothers6[/lightbox]“I love teaching, but I love doing art, too,” he says. “One facilitates the other.”

The brothers credit their parents for developing their love of art. Their father’s ability as a handyman to build anything—including additions to their house—and their mother’s creative talents at upholstering taught them how to work with their hands. They would take toys like GI Joes or Transformers and reconfigure them into something other than intended.

“We were finding art everywhere—seeing dad swing an axe or mom turn a pattern into something. We were always creative,” Kelly says.

Their exposure to creativity paralleled the family’s strong work ethic. When their father got laid off from Chrysler, he did odd jobs until he was hired at BorgWarner. Their mom’s upholsteryjob inspired her to start her own business. The twins watched and learned.

“We had a strong sense of a work ethic, having pride in what you have,” Kelly says. “We convey that through our art.”

At New Castle Chrysler High School, they got into sculpture, the kind of art where you get your hands dirty. Their parents encouraged them but also cautioned them to find something at which they could make a living. “Every factory worker worries about how to make a living. We came from a town where everything is focused on practical things.”

Though being among a small handful of African-American residents in New Castle, the Phelps don’t focus a lot on race issues. But they found it frustrating at Ball State, as in high school, to be the only African-American people in the art department. “We didn’t have a role model,” Kelly says.

Their art showed. Their sculptures were of interesting topics—slavery, “angry black man art” depicting the African-American
experience—but it wasn’t their experience. They hadn’t lived what they were creating.

That all changed in their senior year of college when they entered an art competition and won second and third place. The guy who took first was Bobby Scroggins, an African-American artist and professor at the University of Kentucky. They had never met a black professor, especially in art. He told them they had talent and ought to go to graduate school. They did, after their year at BorgWarner, entering Kentucky in 1997. Scroggins taught them, mentored them and even today, talks to them regularly. “It changed our lives,” Kyle says. “We realized the working class was all around us, and we never paid any attention to it. It was a revelation. Since 1997, our whole body of work has been in this whole working-class theme.”
 

[divider]A people left behind[/divider]

Three framed statues are lined up side by side on a workbench in a small studio in the lower level of Kyle Phelps’ suburban house in Centerville, Ohio. They are, for the most part, complete, but they need some finishing touches.

The two men move around the enclosed space with ease, taking turns dabbing paint onto the sculptured figure placed squarely in the center of each piece against a backdrop of riveted metal. One dabs here, the other dabs there, moving in unison, piece by piece. Each movement complements the other in a kind of rhythm that can only occur among people who have known each other for a very long time.

[lightbox link=”http://xavierweb.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/brothers8.jpg”]brothers8[/lightbox]Sixteen years after their year at BorgWarner, having earned Master of Fine Arts degrees together at the University of Kentucky, Kelly and Kyle Phelps are now professors in ceramics and sculpture—Kelly at Xavier, Kyle at the University of Dayton. They are also accomplished artists who have completed more than 100 pieces, some of which have been purchased by museums, corporations and universities, including Chrysler Corp. and Purdue University, and private individuals, including movie producer Michael Moore, actor Morgan Freeman and musician Bootsy Collins.

They recently completed a commissioned statue of jazz musician Eric Dolphy for Le Moyne College. Their work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, and they are increasingly getting more showings, such as last summer when they were the invited artists at the 19th annual San Angelo National Ceramic Competition. They submitted several of their most recent works, whose titles reflect the Phelps’ renewed focus on working-class themes. Among them: “News of the Layoff,” “Steel Worker” and “Miss America.”

Scroggins is proud of his former students. “The people I know that have seen their work and their energy and what they have to offer are very, very accepting of what they try to do and who they are,” he says. “They’re involved in a social commentary that a lot of people in our country have ignored. They’re reminding us of the people who got left behind.”

The Phelps brothers’ art tells the story of what happened to their city and the working-class people who lived there—starting with
the layoffs and eventual selling off of the New Castle Chrysler plant to DaimlerChrysler in 2002. What once employed nearly 7,000 people in the 1930s had only 200 workers remaining. The factory is now completely silent, as is BorgWarner.

“When the factories disappeared, the poverty set in,” Kelly says.

The titles of the three pieces on the workbench reflect as much: “The Break” features a factory worker lighting a cigarette. He wears a jump suit and has a lunch pail at his side. “Miss America” features a woman in similar work clothes, a lunch pail in one hand and work gloves in the other, looking down and dejected. The third piece, “John Henry,” is shown holding a sledgehammer.

What’s most noticeable about the people in the pieces is that they are idle. “They’re not working. They’re disheartened. They’ve been let go,” Kelly says. “The point of the piece is they’re no longer viable to anyone’s service. They’re cast off, discarded.”

The “Miss America” piece reflects their recognition that women are part of the working-class workforce, too, and ought to be treated as equals to men. One of their favorite sculptures is “Carlita,” featuring a hotel maid in a headscarf pushing a cart filled with cleaning supplies. The backdrop, as in most of their pieces, is an American flag.

“She’s the hotel worker who cleans the room and then disappears,” he says. “There’s something really dirty about how we treat these people.”

The Phelps brothers start a sculpture by first getting into their car and driving to old factory sites in Indiana and Ohio. The abandoned behemoths are now rusting hulks, partly torn down, partly collapsed. They take pictures and then discreetly collect scrap metal and machine parts. They haul it back to the storage room in Centerville and piece by piece, find ways to incorporate the rusting iron and steel into their art, redefining the original intention of each item.

They clean and heat-treat sections of old corrugated steel and wrap it around wooden frames to create a rugged backdrop for the sculpture that nestles in the center. In some pieces, the steel is shaped to resemble smoke stacks and water towers, and always an American flag. A rusted railroad spike they found onsite is attached to the “John Henry” piece. A pair of real, worn work boots dangles from another.

“Our art now is reflective of our experience in that factory town,” Kelly says. “These factories are just shells of what they used to be. They were these mega-structures, and when you see the space where it doesn’t exist anymore, it’s like a scab or wound or a memory of what once was there. They’re being scraped away as if it never was there.”

Except that their art is archiving that history and, as Kelly says, “capturing the moment before it disappears.”

Xavier Through the Seasons

Each year, as the seasons change, Xavier’s campus takes on a new look. What was green in the summer becomes golden in the fall. A coat of white winter snow offers contrasts not seen in the sunlight of spring. Take a look at campus through the seasons.

[divider] [/divider]

 

Dream Analysis

With 2012 being a presidential election year, get ready to hear plenty of rhetoric about the mythical, oft-mentioned American Dream.

At some point, the incumbent will tell you he’s busy trying to restore it and make it more accessible to everyone, while the challenger will tell you it’s in danger of disappearing altogether unless he’s elected. But if someone asks what they mean, exactly, when they refer to the American Dream, the person likely will get different answers. Owning a home or starting a small business, one might say. Getting an affordable college education or ensuring fairness for all, the other might reply.

That’s not what people are telling Michael Ford, at least not precisely.

As the founding director of Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream, Ford has spent more time and effort gauging the attitudes and opinions of the public on this particular topic than many politicians. With the help of his staff and students, Ford has discovered that most people share a common, basic definition of what the Dream means, even though it can manifest itself in different ways.

“The fundamental definition of the American Dream is people are seeking a better life for their families. There are many offshoots and variations, but that’s the common denominator,” Ford says. “The American Dream is an attitude, it’s shared by a country, but it’s also a personal statement.”

Since the Center was created in 2007, it has conducted five major surveys assessing how people view the American Dream and whether they think it’s still attainable. Additionally, it issues the monthly American Dream Composite Index that examines whether people are achieving the Dream. The index uses 35 variables that provide insight into economic, political and societal conditions in the U.S. and how people view their own well-being. Each month the composite index includes new snapshot questions—called “eye openers”—designed to examine a particular aspect of American life such as civic literacy, concerns about debt, and attitudes about technology and privacy.

With the effects of the Great Recession still lingering and national unemployment remaining above 8 percent, it would be easy to think belief in the American Dream has wavered. Not so, Ford says.

“Our research shows it’s wrong to conflate the American Dream with the economy. The assumption is the Dream is all about owning a home, but that’s really something that’s been pushed by special interest groups,” he says. “The American Dream stands alone. People have their own individual ambitions, but they’re reasonably created. They are not trying to get rich.”

Ford adds, “It’s even more surprising that the Dream has stood so well during the depths of the recession. The American Dream really is a belief in ideas. It is a belief in possibilities, hard work and individualism.”

What the survey has discovered, however, is that while most people believe in the American Dream, they have little confidence in society’s traditional institutional pillars—government, big business, media and the like—in helping them achieve it. The Center’s work has gained national and international attention with mentions in outlets ranging from cable TV networks like CNN and MSNBC to Time magazine and newspapers including USA Today and London’s Daily Mail. Further, the Center’s data has been used by Dartmouth College, Wake Forest University and the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service.

A new project is the Permanent American Dream Video Archive. Xavier students are tasked with videotaping and compiling individual accounts of people who are pursuing the American Dream in their own ways.

For Ford, the Center is the natural culmination of nearly four decades spent amid political campaigns and in the corridors of government. “I couldn’t bear the way politics was moving,” Ford says about his decision to leave active campaigning. “The divisiveness, the intensity—it was futile. Right now, it’s like clown school.”

All of the polarization and negative campaigning comes with a cost. In addition to eroding the public’s confidence in major institutions, many Americans don’t understand basic features about their own government. Last spring the Center released its findings from its nationwide survey on civic literacy. It found that one in three native-born Americans failed the civics portion of the naturalization test given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship. That’s far below the 97.5-percent pass rate among immigrants. Among the shocking results, 59 percent of respondents couldn’t name a single power of the federal government, 82 percent couldn’t cite “two rights stated in the Declaration of Independence,” and 71 percent were unable to identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.”

Keeping attention focused on civic literacy and participating in the debate about how to improve it will be part of the Center’s focus in the coming months. “We believe civic literacy is an important protection for the American Dream. It helps us identify and avoid manipulation in politics and emotional, headstrong responses,” Ford says. “The political system is driven by the extremes. The political system will fail if the great mass of citizens don’t stand up and say extremism is unacceptable.”

Ford is optimistic about the future of the nation and its political system but adds any improvement won’t just happen. “It can change but it isn’t enough for us to blame rich people or politicians or special interests,” he says. “This is a republic and it requires public action. More people have to wake up and take on an active role in public life. We are enabling what’s going on right now through our inactivity.”

Dream Course: A new class on the history of the American Dream

The Intersection

[divider]PART ONE: THE SHOOTING [/divider]

The Friends

The day of Nov. 1, 2002, may have ended without bloodshed in New Albany, Ind., if the mail had come to Cynthia Bogard’s house at the usual time. It typically arrives between 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., but it ran early that day.

An unemployed bartender on disability, Bogard was in her narrow row house on Chartes Street, waiting for her welfare check. The mail arrived around 3:00 p.m., still early enough to cash it before the weekend. She called her friends Lisa and Donald Barnett and asked for a ride to the bank.

Lisa and Donald—everyone called him Ducky, a nickname his father gave him—were over at Bogard’s house earlier that day. Ducky brought $20 worth of crack with him, and the three friends sat and smoked it through a metal pipe, talking as the drug entered their bloodstream and triggered a flood of dopamine in their brains.

When Bogard called, they returned to the house in Ducky’s truck. It was a beat-up grey pickup with a power washer in the bed, a tool Ducky used in his own little pressure washing business. They reached Bogard’s house a little after 3:00 p.m.

 

The Lovers

Half a mile away, Steven Paul and his girlfriend, Noreen Cousins, woke up slowly that day. Neither of them had to work, so they lay in bed watching TV. They’d been dating for a year and a half and were living together at a friend’s house.

The son of an Indian doctor and a university professor, Paul grew up in New York and Florida. He was a part-time painter and was learning to blow glass while studying visual communications at Ivy Tech State College in nearby Sellersburg.

When they got out of bed, they took Paul’s pit bull for a walk, as they did every morning, and decided to drive up to Paul’s uncle’s farmhouse near Pekin, Ind. It was only 25 miles north of New Albany.

Paul liked it up there. He would let his dog run around, visit with his cousins and shoot his handgun at paper targets that went from black to green when they were hit.

At around 3:30 p.m., they got in Paul’s white Ford pickup. It was a nice day, but chilly, so Noreen pulled on a black hooded sweatshirt before they headed out the door. Paul grabbed the guns. He put a .40-caliber Taurus in the glove box for Noreen and tucked his .40-caliber Glock in the right cargo pocket of his pants, where he always kept it.

The gun had 10 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. It had no safety switch. They stopped at Ace Pawn and Loan for a box of 50 cartridges then drove two blocks north on State Street to a liquor store called Bottles Unlimited. They wanted to buy some beer to take with them into the country.

 

The Encounter

Lisa and Ducky drove Bogard to Marketboy Grocery to cash her check. Then they crossed the Ohio River into Louisville’s West End to buy more crack. Ducky knew the place. They bought three grams, which Lisa stuffed in her bra, and drove back over the Sherman Minton Bridge, a double-decker span from the 1960s that lifts I-64 over the Ohio River, connecting Kentucky and Indiana. The bridge was already filling with traffic. It was Friday afternoon, close to 4:00 p.m., and the weekend was beginning.

Ducky, Lisa and Bogard were planning a weekend of their own. They talked about throwing a little party back in New Albany, playing some cards and kicking back. Bogard suggested they stop at Bottles Unlimited to pick up some drinks. Ducky took the first exit off the bridge, crawled east through three blocks of traffic on Elm Street and pulled into the liquor store lot.

At the same time, Paul and Cousins turned into the lot from State Street. Pulling into facing parking spaces, the trucks almost collided. Paul got out of his vehicle and walked over to Ducky’s truck.

A 36-year-old former football player, Ducky was a big man, 85 pounds Paul’s senior. Paul grinned when he saw Ducky’s size.

“Okay, now you want to smile,” Ducky said. “What are you talking about, of course I’m smiling. You’re smiling, too. It’s a nice day out.”

“All right boy, go in the store then, go on,” Ducky said.

“You almost hit me.”

“Well, we didn’t.”

The exchange was brief and ended with the two shaking hands. Paul never went into Bottles Unlimited, deciding instead to go to a different liquor store up the road. He got back in his truck, pulled onto State Street and circled around the block to get back on Elm, a one-way.

Cousins saw the whole confrontation from inside the truck and began to simmer. She knew Ducky from the neighborhood. Their families knew each other. Ducky was a bully, she said. He smoked a lot of crack. Nothing but trouble.

By the time Paul circled the block to get back on Elm, the simmer had grown to a full boil. They were in the center lane when they approached Bottles Unlimited.

The light was red and traffic slowed to a stop, a dammed stream of idling engines that pooled all the way back to the interstate. As they sat there, waiting for the light to change, Cousins shifted in her seat, leaned halfway out the passenger side window and began shouting obscenities at Ducky who was still seated in his truck.

“You all ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of crack heads,” Cousins yelled.

“Your mammy’s a crack head,” Ducky shot back.

 

The Students

Several hours earlier, two 15-passenger vans left Xavier and headed south toward Louisville. They were full of students participating in a “rural plunge” experience organized by Ben Urmston, S.J., director of the Dorothy Day Center for Peace and Justice. The group was on its way to Tell City, Ind., where the students would spend a night on a hog farm, learning about small-scale agriculture. But first they were scheduled to hear a speaker in New Albany.

It was an unconnected group of students—a Nicaraguan exchange student, three Japanese graduate students, various others. Most of the students were on the trip to fulfill a requirement for their theology class. They were still learning each other’s names when they crossed the Sherman Minton Bridge from Louisville into Indiana and took the Elm Street exit. One van made it through the intersection before the light changed to red, but the second van became part of the growing pool of traffic and only crept toward State Street.

Anna Burdick, a 19-year-old public relations major, was absent-mindedly watching the cars. “I was looking out the window because we’d been driving so long and I was kind of bored,” Burdick later testified. “A car came up along the side of us … There was a woman hanging out of the window of the vehicle screaming. I assumed that she was screaming at us.”

The other passengers in the van turned to look. “She was saying the ‘F’ word a lot,” Rosie Gibson, an 18-year-old Montessori education major told the police.

“She was pretty steamed,” said David Dunn, a 19-year-old biology major.

The students realized she was shouting over the Xavier van, to someone sitting in a truck in the parking lot next to them. Ducky was returning the insults. It only took a few more words before Cousins threw open the truck door and stepped out onto the street.?Paul leaned over and grabbed a fistful of her black sweatshirt as she was leaving the truck. He was trying to hold on, but she slipped through his fingers. Cousins ran across the street, around the Xavier vehicle, to Ducky’s truck. The students’ eyes followed her from one side of the van to the other. “She was ready to fight,” said Dunn.

 

The Fight

Bogard had just walked out of Bottles Unlimited and set a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice on the hood of Ducky’s truck when she heard the yelling and saw Cousins running toward her. “She came up out of that truck so fast,” Bogard said. “Just charged toward the truck.”

Cousins started swinging while Ducky was still in his vehicle. Bogard remembers him looking bemused, with “a sort of grin on his face.” He stepped out of the truck and deflected the blows. Ducky was much larger than Cousins. Gibson remembers him saying something like, “What are you going to do?”

That’s when Paul got out of his truck. Walking through traffic, he pulled the Glock from his pocket and wandered into the peripheral vision of everyone who was focused on the fight.

Most of the witnesses thought he was coming to break it up. His right arm was straight against his body. In his hand was a ?black gun.

Lisa McCafferty Friel was just two years out from earning her biology degree from Xavier and interning with the Dorothy Day Center. She was chosen to drive the second of the two vans. “It was like I was watching a movie,” she says.

In the passenger seat, Tom Sheibley, the associate director of the Center, started shouting, “Get down, he’s got a gun!” But Friel lacked the instinct to duck. She had no concept the gun could hurt her. And she couldn’t take her eyes off it.

Neither could Gibson, watching from the window. “When I saw that he had a gun I was just watching him,” she says. She followed Paul’s arm as he leveled the weapon. “I was looking at his face when he pulled the trigger,” she says. “It looked kind of disturbingly calm. He was just looking straight ahead. I really didn’t see much emotion at all.”

The shot hit Ducky in the right side of his stomach, a copper jacketed bullet that tore through his intestine, pierced his inferior vena cava—the largest vein in the body—then severed his left iliac artery and another section of intestine before coming to a rest in the soft tissue on the other side of his body.

Vaughn Jantzen, a self-employed tree-trimmer, heard the shot from the Citibank parking lot across the street. He thought it was a firecracker or a car backfiring. He looked up and saw Ducky. “There was a black man, looked like he was scrambling to get out of the way of something,” Jantzen said.

The students were glued to the van window. “He doubled over in pain and kind of went like, ‘Ohh,’ ” Burdick says. “I could hear the agony.”

Ducky turned and started to run. Paul leveled again, firing a second shot into Ducky’s left shoulder. Ducky ran 96 feet, across an alley and through some bushes before he dropped to the pavement.

Paul and Cousins scrambled back to their truck and drove away.

Inside the van, Sheibley had the presence of mind to read the license plate aloud, repeating it so he wouldn’t forget. Unable to find a pen, one of the students punched the numbers into a cell phone.

After the second shot, Jantzen, the tree-trimmer, ran across the street. “Everybody started screaming and hollering,” he said. “There was a truck that was taking off and it was squealing tires.”

Friel sprung into action. She pulled the van off the road and ran toward Ducky. Trained in CPR since she was 12, she took off her sweatshirt and pressed it to Ducky’s wound, trying to stop the bleeding. “He was going into shock,” she says. “He was shaking.”?Bogard ran toward Ducky, too. She remembers him raising his head and trying to call his wife. “Lisa.”

 

The Aftermath

It was only seconds before the scene was flooded in lights and sirens.The liquor store was a block away from the police station. It was such a small town, Friel says, “You didn’t have to call the police, you just had to yell.”

As EMTs loaded Ducky into an ambulance and rushed him to Floyd Memorial Hospital, students wandered around the lot, some of them crying. When the ambulance left, police circled the scene in crime tape. They asked the Xavier students to look for the bullet casings. Friel had never shot a gun before, never even held one. She didn’t know what a casing looked like, but within a few minutes she had found a small metal cylinder on the asphalt. A detective marked and photographed it. It was such a small piece of metal.

Around the same time, a mile up State Street, Ducky Barnett, a husband, a son and the 36-year-old father of five, was pronounced dead. Six days later he would be lowered into the ground at West Haven Cemetery as his 13-year-old daughter, Joslin, sang “Amazing Grace.” ?His family had to pay the New Albany Tribune to print an obituary.

 

[divider]PART TWO: THE TRIAL [/divider]

The Outsiders

The police caught Paul almost immediately. An off-duty detective in the area heard the call come over the radio and intercepted Paul’s pickup at 13th and Elm. Paul turned into an alley, jumped out of the truck and leapt over an eight-foot privacy fence. The officer pursued on foot, and eventually Paul surrendered. He led the officer to his gun, which he had stashed in a trash bag. As his hands were cuffed, he said, “A big black guy was beating up my girlfriend, and I shot him.”

Hours after the shooting, Friel and the Xavier students were sitting in the police station, waiting to give recorded testimonies. Ducky’s wife was there, too, as were Paul and Cousins. “It was like sitting across a living room,” Friel says. The students felt out of place. “We were supposed to just be going to a farm on the Indiana countryside,” Sheibley says.

Looking around the room, Friel thought people must have been wondering, “ ‘Who are these guys in their big white van?’ It was ironic that we, the outsiders, were the firsthand witnesses.”

 

The Common Thread

Unlikely as it was, Xavier became a common thread throughout the incident. There was the vanload of witnesses. Then there was Paul’s defense attorney, Michael McDaniel, a local lawyer who graduated from Xavier in 1965. And the judge who tried the case, Floyd County Judge Terrence Cody, is a 1971 Xavier alum.

Paul’s trial began on March 30, 2004, two days after Xavier lost to Duke in the Musketeers’ first NCAA Elite Eight appearance. If Xavier had won the game, the trial may have been delayed because one of the student witnesses was traveling with the team in the pep band. Xavier had beaten Louisville two weeks earlier, much to the chagrin of one of the jury members, who was a former UofL player. McDaniel and Judge Cody ribbed him about it throughout the trial.

The Lawyers

McDaniel has practiced law in New Albany for 44 years. He has white hair, a toothbrush moustache and round, rosy cheeks. When he laughs, which is often, his eyes disappear into crinkles behind his glasses. His speech is deliberate, and he walks at a pace that’s appropriate for a town with 25 mph speed limits. He played fullback for the Xavier football team and still has a loose vertebrae on account of a hit he received during a punishing loss against the Quantico Marines. He wears a navy suit and drives a 16-year-old Blazer with no air ?conditioning. A carton of Doral Reds rides shotgun.

McDaniel’s courtroom opponent in the trial was state prosecutor Steve Owen, a slick attorney from Gary, Ind. Two jurors pulled McDaniel aside and said, “That boy ain’t from around here, is he?” Owen wore a gold chain on his left wrist and derided the local ?pronunciation of “voir dire” during the first day of jury selection. Later that day, Judge Cody took an opportunity to correct Owen’s pronunciation, when the prosecutor referred to the student witnesses who would be testifying in the trial.

MR. OWEN: They are all from (Eggs)avier University.?

THE COURT: Mr. Owen, it’s Xavier.

MR. OWEN: Xavier.?

MR. MCDANIEL: Thank you, Your Honor.

MR. OWEN: I’m sorry, Your Honor.

THE COURT: You’re offending me.

MR. OWEN: I know. Unintentionally. Xavier University.

Owen was an outsider in New Albany. “He did not resonate with the jury,” McDaniel says. “He has a different accent than we do here.” McDaniel, on the other hand, used familiar vernacular and a mellow Southern drawl. He even got the jury to laugh once or twice. (“You make a jury laugh in a murder case, and they don’t convict a murder.”)

 

The Defense

McDaniel was familiar with the individuals involved in the shooting at Bottles Unlimited. Years earlier, he represented Ducky’s father, a truck driver who was killed in crossfire between two people arguing over a $15 debt outside The Climax Café nightclub, in a case. He also represented the man who shot Ducky’s father. McDaniel had even been at the same liquor store, his favorite in New Albany, hours before the shooting. “This is a little town,” he says.

McDaniel’s defense strategy was simple. “I was trying to make Barnett an aggressive guy who grabbed the girlfriend and prompted Paul to step out and whack him.” The fact that Ducky, Lisa and Bogard had just been over in Louisville buying crack cocaine only helped his case. So did the local support for the right to protect oneself and one’s loved ones by whatever means necessary. “Around here, you almost need to be an evil person to be convicted of a murder,” McDaniel says.

McDaniel knew from the start that Paul was not that sort of person. “Steven was an odd duck,” he says. “His goal in life was to become a pro skateboarder. Better than having a job, I guess. Truth be known, he’s probably a spoiled brat. But I don’t think he’s a guy who will ever get into trouble again.”

But McDaniel’s personal opinions of his clients never interfere with his work as a defense attorney. They can’t. “If somebody isn’t out there forcing the state to present its case properly, then it’s easier to put people in jail,” he says. “Some of those people will be innocent.”

McDaniel argued the case well. At the end of the trial he put Paul on the stand to testify that Ducky was strangling and punching Cousins.

It didn’t matter that none of the other witnesses saw Ducky hit her and that every Xavier witness pointed to Cousins as the aggressor. On April 6, 2004, Paul’s 26th birthday, the all-white jury convicted Paul not of murder, but of aggravated battery.

“I don’t know if he realized what a deal he got,” McDaniel says. “He was never remorseful about shooting Ducky.”

 

The Intersection

Sheibley and four Xavier students came back to New Albany to testify in the trial. Gibson was one of them. She recalls a moment in the courthouse between testimonies when Ducky’s wife, Lisa, showed them pictures of Ducky with his children. It was the first time Gibsonsaw the victim as a man with a face, a smile and a family.

“It wasn’t until then that I’d thought of him as a person who’d lost his life,” she says.

Sheibley remembers the moment, too. “We were together in a room back there,” he says. “We got to spend a little time with the wife and the friend of the person who was killed. Our lives intersected in a way that they never would have.”

 

[divider]PART THREE: THE REFLECTION [/divider]

The Decision

Sheibley and Friel didn’t know exactly what to do. There’s no written protocol for what to do after witnessing a murder. No manual. “The last thing we expected to have happen was to witness what we did,” says Sheibley, who is now director of campus ministry for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “We made a decision to go ahead and continue on with the rural plunge.”

In retrospect, he wonders if he should’ve given the students the option to turn back. “I hope that I would have at least given them a little bit of a chance to talk about it if they wanted to, to check in with everybody to make sure that they were doing okay.”

But everyone was processing the experience differently. Friel remembers some students crying with the same grief as Ducky’s wife, Lisa. Others, like herself, were still coming to terms with what they saw. “I’m a post-processor,” she says. “I deal with my feelings later. It’s not that I was numb, but I guess I just didn’t let myself be affected at the time.”

When the weekend was over and the group returned to Xavier, the students dispersed. They were an unconnected group. “I really didn’t see them again ’til the lawyers were involved,” Sheibley says. Nevertheless, he paid a visit to the McGrath Health and Wellness Center to speak with a counselor. He wanted to know what he could do for the students who witnessed the killing. It was only in telling this counselor about what they saw in New Albany that Sheibley realized how the experience affected him.

“I wasn’t even really noticing for myself that that was something that really bothered me,” he says. “It struck something down deep. That was really an awful thing, a really tragic thing to see.”

 

The Last Decade

Ten years later, the witnesses in the van look back on the shooting differently. One of the witnesses refused an interview request, saying it’s an experience she tries not to think about, much less talk about.

But for others, time has softened the trauma. As terrible as it was, Sheibley says he rarely thinks about it. “I can’t say that my life was dramatically changed,” he says. “I wish I had something really profound to say about it. I don’t know that I really do. It’s certainly an unforgettable event. It helps me to appreciate my life.”

In the months after the incident, Friel remembers feeling leery of groups of men on the street. That feeling has eased over the years, but she is raising her three children away from toy guns and video games, and she is sensitive to the way movies desensitize people to violence. Today Friel works with children with physical disabilities and is sometimes reminded of the shooting. She took care of one child from a rough neighborhood recently who tried to run away from home in his wheelchair after his brother was shot.

“I had the tiniest insight,” she says. “Not that I can identify with him, but if it impacted me to this degree, it has to have impacted him more. If anything, I was given it so I can have a bit more insight. Now it’s in my bag of experiences that I can pull out and say, yeah, I did experience that.”

Gibson (now Rosie Warburg) had trouble sleeping in the months after the shooting. “I would think about it all the time,” she says. “When I would lie down at night to go to sleep and close my eyes, I would see it play over and over and over again.”

Her most vivid flashback was that of Ducky’s wife, Lisa, standing outside the liquor store screaming. “She came out and saw him lying on the ground, in the bushes. She was clinging to us and crying, yelling, ‘Ducky, Ducky.’ I really felt for her. She had lost her husband.”

But now, Warburg says she feels a strange detachment from the experience. “It really doesn’t feel like something that I saw. It’s almost a story or something I saw in the news. I don’t know if it’s what your brain does to protect you against it, but it’s almost like it wasn’t even real, like we didn’t even see it.”

 

The Town

The shooting is not forgotten in New Albany. The case stands out for both Cody and McDaniel because it was a rare killing in broad daylight in their sleepy town. “It took place literally a block from the courthouse,” Cody says. “I’ll never forget that day or that trial.”

The pair had the chance to reminisce recently over a plate of pasta at La Bocca, an Italian restaurant two blocks from the liquor store. Cody is late, but that just gives McDaniel an excuse to smoke a cigarette outside. “A judge is never late,” he says between drags, “because you can’t start without him.”

When the judge arrives, they take a table. McDaniel orders an Absolut martini, up, one olive. It comes with three, but he doesn’t say anything. Cody gets a water. The two men are close, but their professional relationship hasn’t come without disagreement. McDaniel points to the 19-and-a-half-year sentence Cody dealt to Paul—the highest sentence for an aggravated battery conviction. Cody justified the sentence by saying Paul’s actions constituted the “ultimate battery”—death.

McDaniel protests the sentence. “I always believed you felt the guy got one hell of a break from the jury,” McDaniel says. “I did.”

“And it was an equitable sentencing. I understood that. I always thought we did okay with the jury.”

It’s a strained conversation, even now, even as well as they know each other. In the end, Paul served less than six years. He is now in California, working for a skateboarding company. McDaniel won his case. Cody wonders if justice was served.

 

The Final Word

The equality of justice was the foundation of prosecutor Owen’s closing argument, which was built upon the idea that justice should be afforded to everyone, even crack addicts in a liquor store parking lot. Preserving justice, he said, is a decision that people make every day­—people like the students, who just happened to be stuck in traffic at the unalterable moment when the lives of Paul and Ducky intersected.

“There were a lot of people sitting there at that stop light and across from it,” Owen told the jury. “Probably 50 cars, hundreds of people probably, that saw this incident or parts of it.” Most of them drove on, he said, and never stepped forward as witnesses. It was “just a small handful, the kids in a van, who saw an injustice and wanted to help … They went the extra mile not for their own selves or to try to save themselves, but because it was the right thing to do, to serve justice. Folks, you’re at a crossroad, right now. You’ve got a decision. You can either drive away, or you can be like those kids—stop and ensure that justice is done.”